Interviewing Process Investigated

At the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year, there were twelve new teachers among those entering the building.  While new students simply have to enroll at Tosa West to become members of the school community, the process for becoming a teacher here is a bit more difficult.  “It takes a lot of perseverance,” said science teacher Petra VandeZande.

The process begins with an online application.  When the administration at West becomes aware of a vacancy, they post an ad on a website called WECAN, short for Wisconsin Education Career Access Network.  WECAN is utilized by roughly half the school districts in the state of Wisconsin, though the Wauwatosa School District began using it only three years ago.  It is here that potential teachers send in their applications and résumés to be reviewed.

They also answer several questions posted by the district.  These include queries  that hint at answers correlating to the 10 Wisconsin Teacher Standards.  The 10 Wisconsin Teacher Standards list is a compilation of what all certified teachers in Wisconsin should know and be able to do.  They necessitate that teachers are able to plan differnt types of lessons, etc.  For example, the online questions included “Please describe how your instructional style addresses the broad ranges of student learning,” and “What positive attributes and strengths do you possess that allow you to communicate effectively?”

After the ad has been on the website long enough to have garnered the response of a sufficient amount of qualified applicants, the administration conducts short preliminary interviews.  The amount of time the ad is up depends on the type of position that is available.  “Usually we try to have posts up at least 5 days,” said Dan Chanen, the Director of Wauwatosa School District’s Human Resources Department, “but if you post something on WECAN, you have people applying within 15 minutes.”

The first interviews are conducted by teams of two- one administrator and one teacher of the same subject.  According to Associate Principal Paul Thusius, the panel looks for several things.  “We ask 4-5 general questions to get an idea about behaviors of teachers.  This gives us an idea of what they are like as a person,” he said.

The interviewers also look to see how much the applicants know about the district.  “It definitely helps to know things about the school, go to the website, and have thoughts and questions prepared,” said Thusius.  “It shows us that you want the job and have done your research.”

Dwight Osmon, a new science teacher, agrees with that.  On preparing for the interviews he said, “You need to try to think what the questions they ask might be.  It’s a lot like preparing for a test.”  Another thing he mentioned was the need to be unique.  “You have to find a way to stand out because lots of people want to be teachers at good schools like Tosa West.”

Being a standout applicant is very important, because after the preliminary interviews, the pool of applicants is narrowed down to the top ten people for each position.  The second round of interviews each run about thirty minutes and are conducted by four or five people, including current teachers from the department of the open position.  “The final interviews are a lot more specific, with questions asked about things specific to a class.  We actually had the French teacher from East come over and ask candidates more difficult questions, which they answered in French,” said Thusius.

Petra VandeZande described one thing people do to prepare for these interviews.  “Sometimes what you prepare are past tests, lesson plans, and other things you’ve done previously,” she said.

Finally, the panel narrows their choices down to the top three candidates.  After that, the administration makes their final decision and they recommend one applicant to the district’s Human Resources Department.  If the candidate’s background check clears, they get the job.  Dan Chanen remarked, “Usually we don’t find anything.  Almost always the biggest flaw is not disclosing things on your application.”

He also reflects on the way today’s job market has affected hiring.  Wauwatosa’s close proximity to the Milwaukee Public School District, which has laid a lot of teachers off in the recent past, has provided a large number of teachers looking for work.  “You’ll find there are more teachers looking for work, so we can have very high standards,” said Chanen.  Hopefully, the staffing decisions made this summer will reflect those high standards.